Peter Buck was the guitarist for R.E.M., arguably the most important and influential American rock band of the post-punk era. Born December 6, 1956, in Berkeley, California, he was managing the Athens, Georgia-based Wuxtry record shop when he met University of Georgia student Michael Stipe, and with bassist Mike Mills and drummer Bill Berry, they formed R.E.M. in the spring of 1980. Distinguished by Buck's chiming guitar riffs, the group honed an atmospheric, jangly pop sound often reminiscent of the Byrds, touring relentlessly prior to issuing their debut single, "Radio Free Europe," on the tiny Hib-Tone label in mid-1981; after the record's success on college radio attracted the attention of I.R.S. Records, they released the Chronic Town EP a year later. R.E.M.'s first full-length album, 1983's Murmur, cemented their reputation as critics' darlings; despite little mainstream airplay, 1984's Reckoning reached the Top 30 and with the darkly beautiful follow-up Fables of the Reconstruction, the band earned increasing MTV visibility for the videos "Can't Get There from Here" and "Driver 8."
While 1986's Life's Rich Pageant revealed a growing awareness with sociopolitical concerns (among them environmental issues and American foreign policy), the following year's Document was R.E.M.'s commercial breakthrough, buoyed by the Top Ten hit "The One I Love." Released on Election Day 1988, the Warner Bros. label debut Green was R.E.M.'s most pointedly polemic effort to date, although the hits "Stand" and "Pop Song 89" also reflected the band's wry sense of humor. Following the Green tour, R.E.M. took an extended break, during which time Buck, Mills, and Berry teamed with singer/songwriter Warren Zevon to record an LP as the Hindu Love Gods. Buck, who earlier produced the Feelies' 1986 comeback LP The Good Earth, also helmed sessions for Kevn Kinney (MacDougal Blues), Run Westy Run (Green Cat Island), and Uncle Tupelo (March 16-20, 1992); a comic book written and drawn by then-unknown singer/songwriter Jack Logan even depicted the guitarist as a superhero.
R.E.M. returned in 1991 with the chart-topping Out of Time, which generated the Top Ten hits "Losing My Religion" and "Shiny Happy People"; the elegiac masterpiece Automatic for the People followed in 1992 and as alternative rock took over the pop charts, the band was widely acknowledged among the chief inspirations behind a generation of new artists. In the wake of 1995's Monster, Buck formed the side project Tuatara, an experimental, free jazz-inspired collective also featuring the Screaming Trees' Barrett Martin and Luna's Justin Harwood; the group's debut album, Breaking the Ethers, appeared a year later, followed in 1998 by Trading with the Enemy. In 1997, he also teamed with ex-American Music Club frontman Mark Eitzel for the collaborative LP West. He returned to R.E.M. -- by then a trio following Berry's retirement -- for 1998's Up, the album that established that the group could continue without Berry. Over the next decade, Buck would pursue side projects between R.E.M. albums, frequently playing with such old friends as Robyn Hitchcock and Scott McCaughey; he played bass in McCaughey's band the Baseball Project.
R.E.M. announced their disbandment in the fall of 2011. In the spring of 2012, Buck announced he was recording his first solo album. The eponymous result was released in October in an extremely limited edition of 2,000 vinyl copies. Buck busied himself with the occasional supporting gig for his solo debut and also with his Todos Santos Music Festival, a charitable multi-day festival he launched in 2012 and which would be held on a regular basis over the next few years. Early in 2014, Buck returned with I Am Back to Blow Your Mind Once Again, another vinyl-only album. He toured behind the LP, supporting Alejandro Escovedo on a few dates. A third vinyl-only album, Warzone Earth, appeared in October 2015. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi